C’mon, really now, swimming pigs? Without a doubt you’ve read about the 3 Little Pigs when you were much younger. Perhaps even watched Ms. Piggy on the Muppet Show. And as you grew up, you finally realized that pigs can’t fly. But in the Bahamas, oink…oink, there are S-W-I-M-M-I-N-G P-I-G-S!
The Bahamas is a natural haven for many wildlife species, which thrive here due to the pleasant weather conditions and bountiful natural resources that are available. There are lovely flamingos flying about majestically on the clear blue waters of Great Inagua and then we’ve got A-Class celebrities – the swimming pigs!
Most people go to the Exumas for the translucent aquamarine waters and the powder-white sand beach-fronts. But there is one particular island that stands out from the rest. In the middle of paradise, with billionaires and celebrities for neighbors, there is an island populated only by pigs. For several million dollars, you can also buy an island here. But the pigs live rent-free. It is truly an awesome place to hit the sands with some rather unusual beach bums and has quickly become the new hot spot — Pig Beach.
Who doesn’t love some fat awe-worthy pigs? Imagine going out there and swimming with the pigs for as long as you want to. We admit that dog is man’s best friend, but the pig is no less for it is so adorable and lovely.
Pig Beach (also known as Pig Island, Major Cay, and officially Big Major Cay) is an uninhabited island (or cay) located in Exuma, the Bahamas. The island takes its unofficial name from the fact that it is populated by a colony of feral pigs that live on the island and in the surrounding shallows.
This place has a picturesque beauty of its own and you will fall in love with the way a day undergoes transitions out there. The lovely blue sky is mirrored in the pristine clear waters and leaves you in awe of the way that the pigs look while swimming in those heavenly waters.
However, if you want to go looking for the swimming pigs, take a boat excursion straight to Big Major Cay and simply hang out with the swimming pigs. It is one of the most popular of the 365 islands and cays in the Exumas, featuring around 20 pigs that have acquired the taste of the luxurious tropical life in the Exumas.Swimming with dolphins or sharks is pure bologna. You’ve got to go swimming with the pigs! ~ Ricardo NewboldClick To Tweet
They lounge about in fine, white sand, under the shade of billowing palms. On sunny days they rush to the clear blue waters for a swim for relaxation’s sake—but mostly when they hear boats motoring nearby so that they could grab a bite or two from tourists who visit them regularly.
The pigs there are truly quite friendly and do not shy away when you approach them. Big Major Cay is famous as the Pig Island as it is swarming with these lovely creatures whom you cannot resist falling in love with. The oinkers collectively have established themselves as a social media sensation, achieving fame practically overnight. Yet, the sunbathing pigs are the cutest as they lazily lie around under the sun and encourage you to take a leisurely sunbath to soothe your muscles and forget all your worries.
The Exuma Cays
The Exuma chain of islands, otherwise known as the jewels of The Bahamas, is among the most beautiful and exclusive in the world. There are 365 of these cays, which are known for their translucent aquamarine waters. Bordering the endless shades of blue are the powder-white sand beach-fronts of the crescent-shaped shallow islands.
All in a row, running in a southeastern direction for 130 brilliantly turquoise miles, these idyllic islands have been home to native tribes, an escape for American loyalists after the Revolutionary War, a haven for pirates, a hideout for drug lords, and, more recently, the tropical Hamptons of the super-rich.
Some are privately owned by celebrities such as Johnny Depp, who fell in love with this area of the Bahamas while filming Pirates of the Caribbean. Others include Faith Hill and Tim McGraw as well as illusionist David Copperfield who was so enamored, he purchased Musha Cay, a 150-acre piece of paradise that has been transformed into a luxury resort costing just under $40,000 per night.
Related: Save the Pig On Your Family Vacation
Swimming Pigs Tour Highlights
Enjoy a fun filled, action packed, delightful Exuma Cays Excursion aboard a fast, custom designed Powerboat while you snorkel, beach comb, and experience all the beauty of the Exumas in one adventurous tour.
Your captain and first mate will entertain you with an educational history lesson about the Pirates of the Bahamas and first-class service as you cruise in and out of over 20 magnificent, little known cays with several stops the original natives of the Bahamas once called home.
Along the way, take incredible photos to cherish forever atop an island with 360-degree views of the Exuma Cays. Circle past the multi-million dollar privately owned islands of celebrities, and speed across waters only inches deep as Stingrays race across the bottom.
Create lifelong memories as the excitement continues, inclusive of unique opportunities to interact with local fauna, pet friendly sharks, observe and feed the indigenous Rock Iguanas at Allan Cay, lunch at Staniel Cay Yacht Club and visit the Exuma Land & Sea Park headquarters.
Swim through a lively reef with magnificent colors while a nearby virgin sandbar awaits your exploration. Most excursions include a stop at Thunderball Grotto, a sea cave that appeared in the James Bond movie “Thunderball.”
However, no journey into the cays is complete without feeding and swimming with the always hilarious, world-famous Swimming Pigs. Of course, the pigs eat what visitors feed them. This is why they bum-rush the water when they hear boats. For years, this process went unchecked and tourists would give the pigs everything from lettuce and lobster tails to raw meat and beer.
After a handful of pigs died in early 2017, volunteers made signs designed to raise awareness about the pigs’ health. The signs remind visitors that the “pigs are not garbage disposals,” and that it’s best to feed the animals in the water so they don’t ingest sand.
Birth of A New Industry
These pigs are so famous that visitors come from all over the world, just to see and swim with the pigs. This family of boars and piglets are rapidly becoming a YouTube sensation thanks to visitors filming themselves taking a dip with the animals. A quick YouTube search will yield video after video of people swimming with the pigs.
Accordingly, it’s no surprise that the porkers have become official ambassadors of Bahamas tourism. A book about them, “Pigs of Paradise,” has already hit bookstore shelves. “These animals certainly have captivated people’s imagination,” says author T.R. Todd. “Swimming with pigs on a beautiful beach is not something you do every day.”
There are many theories about how the pigs first got to Big Major Cay. Some cite shipwrecks or say a storm washed them ashore. Others believe pirates hid them there. As Todd explains in his book, most of these origin stories are folklore.
The real story: Residents of neighboring islands put them there on purpose.
The Exuma Cays are clearly a bit of a playground for the rich and famous. As the islands became popular among the Hollywood set in the 1980s and 1990s, locals who had their pigs in pens at home decided to relocate the smelly and often messy animals to a more secluded spot. Eventually the pigs knew they were coming to feed and they’d greet his boat in the water in order to be fed first.
Big Major Cay provided the perfect cover. It was far enough away that visitors wouldn’t see or smell the pigs, yet close enough that locals could get the pigs if they needed them.
David Hocher, owner of the Staniel Cay Yacht Club on neighboring Staniel Cay, says Big Major has another critical resource: fresh water.
“Not every island around here has fresh water like Big Major,” says Hocher, who grew up on Staniel Cay. “That island is perfectly set up to support and sustain life.”
However, although numbers ebb and flow, there are about 30 to 40 animals on the island at any given time. Baby pigs roam freely with juveniles, adults and elderly swine. The animals differ in color. Some are all black, while others are mottled black, pink and white. They also have different personalities. Some are eager to interact with people, while others are shy.
Nearby resorts offer full inclusive tours to Pig Island where you can get to interact with these lovelies. In addition to hotel tours, there are ocean safari trips too, which you take on a boat and get to enjoy the most exciting and soothing sun baths and swimming at different points across your ocean safari.
However, there is hardly a match for the cute little and big swimming pigs, which will have you going all gaga over them. The lovely hogging pigs are always eager to receive visitors so they swim very close to the boats sometimes, get their share of treats, and love from their guests. You can even take selfies with these overly affectionate pigs and they will not mind you at all!
Rise to Stardom
More than anything else, social media has changed the lives of the swimming pigs. The man behind that effort: Peter Nicholson, partner and director of GIV Bahamas, and majority owner at the Grand Isle Resort & Spa on Great Exuma Island.
Nicholson, had been aware of the pigs for years and always saw them as a curiosity. In 2013, when he decided to market the Exumas, it hit him: Why not build a campaign around the pigs?
To get the word out, Nicholson hired Todd, a former business editor at the Nassau Guardian. Todd, in turn, hired Charlie Allan Smith, a local filmmaker and video producer. The dynamic duo of Todd and Smith cranked out a five-minute promotional video spotlighting the pigs.
With the help of the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, the video went viral, piquing the interest of travel bloggers and celebrities alike. In 2016, the pigs hit the TV circuit, with an appearance on “The Bachelor” and the “Today Show.” The pigs even got their own Instagram page and Twitter account (both @pigsofparadise).
Todd’s book chronicles the pigs’ rise to stardom. It includes colorful history of the islands, thoughtful analysis of the relationship between humans and pigs through time and autobiographical anecdotes about Todd’s other (non-piggie) experiences in the Bahamas. Smith’s feature-length documentary, due out in December, touches on many of these topics as well.
“You’ve got these islands with the most beautiful water in the world, and then you’ve got pigs,” says Smith. “The pairing is just so unexpected. People are drawn to it. It lends itself to a closer look.”
Because the pigs have become so popular, Nicholson and other entrepreneurs have put together sub-colonies across the Bahamas. One is closer to the main island of Great Exuma and others in Abaco, Eleuthera/Spanish Wells, Long Island and Nassau.
Don’t’ Just Dream. Go There!
Of course, the best way to experience the pigs is to see them in person. Big Major Cay is accessible only by boat, and most vessels take 10 to 20 people at a time. Some boats leave from Staniel Cay. To get there, visitors first must fly to Nassau, then take a puddle-jumper or boat to the final destination. Yet, if you’re staying in Nassau or Great Exuma, you can easily book a day trip to see the swimming pigs. Your adventure will feature a boat tour through The Exuma Cays.
Safety Guidelines & Physical Restriction Policy
Safety is extremely important when you are participating in boating and water sport activities such as fishing, swimming, water skiing, jet skiing, or scuba diving. However, because water sports and boating are fun and enjoyable, people often don’t think about the risks involved, and as a result, don’t follow basic and necessary safety measures. So get up to speed with safety tips for water sports adventures.
- This is a high velocity tour; all tours are weather permitting
- Not recommended for pregnant women & infants,
- Age & weight restrictions may apply
- Not accessible for the physically challenged
- Not recommended for people with back problems or who have had a recent back surgery
- Not recommended for people with respiratory or heart problems
- Not recommended for people with a recent arm/hand surgery
- Not handicapped accessible
What to Bring:
- Change of Clothes
- Beach Towel
- Water Shoes
- No Jewelry
- Insect Repellent
All of the tour providers incorporate their own weather policy. Particularly, in the event of inclement weather, they will try to reschedule your trip if possible so that you get a second opportunity to enjoy the experience. Normally, if they can’t reschedule your trip at your convenience, they will provide a full refund.
Safety is the #1 priority, and the boat captain has the final say regarding adverse weather conditions on your selected excursion date. However, should adverse weather conditions exist you can expect to be notified via email a day in advance. Otherwise, they will attempt to reach you by telephone to inform you if it is necessary.
Can I Swim with The Pigs?
If you’re visiting the Bahamas soon, you’ve got to take a trip to see some of the island’s most famous residents, the swimming pigs. Now the question that often arises is whether you can join your porcine friends for an occasional swim or not. Well, you can swim with them just like you can swim with dolphins.
They are naturally friendly and do not shy away when you try to swim among them. Rather they interact with you in their own special way and it is heartwarming to see and experience.
Wherever you see them, there’s nothing quite like the thrill of observing the piggy-paddle in action and huge snouts above water in the tropical sun. Once you’ve witnessed this oink-tastic spectacle, every other wildlife experience is just hogwash.
Now, if you’re waiting to fulfill any bucket list goals, heads up: try the hoggy paddle because pigs do swim!
Let’s Go Swimming with The Pigs
So, while you are in the Bahamas next time do not forget to pay the swimming pigs a visit!